MECC Advanced Palliative Care Course

Health care, specifically oncology, doesn’t adhere to country borders or cultural differences. Cancer, in its many forms, affects millions the world over, and groups like the Middle East Cancer Consortium (MECC) and ONS are working diligently to spread quality cancer care interventions to the region. 

ONS members Susan Newton, RN, MS, AOCN®, AOCN®, and Jeannine Brant, PhD, APRN, AOCN®, FAAN, Lisa Kennedy Sheldon, PhD, AOCNP®, Kathryn Waitman, RN, DNP, AOCN®, Wendy Vogel, RN, MS, AOCN®, and Amy Jo Voris, DNP, AOCN®, CNS, recently traveled to Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, to participate in the MECC conference “Advanced Courses in Palliative Care” to healthcare professionals and oncology nurse from all over the Middle East. From February 11–14, 2016, more than 100 attendees from eight different countries participated in the conference to learn about end-of-life care topics.

“We discussed principles of palliative care and models of care, symptom management, pain assessment and management, communication techniques, grief and loss,” Newton said. “In addition, each attendee worked on an implementation plan to incorporate palliative care principles in their country and work setting.”

The advanced palliative care conference comes on the heels of two recent MECC-sponsored conferences in Oman and the United Arab Emirates that ONS members also participated in during October 2015. However, Newton has been working in the region since as early as 2012. “When I taught palliative care in Oman for the first time in 2012, the nurses weren’t sure what palliative care even meant. Now they have designated programs and are implementing the concepts throughout the country and the region,” Newton remembered.

Participation in the conferences did uncover some cultural obstacles. “There are definitely controversial topics such as DNR status or 'allowing natural death,' along with ways that individuals cope with being a caregiver and the stress that it can cause,” Newton said. Yet, the overall participation and engagement have been remarkable. “It’s amazing to see so many nurses from all over the Middle East gather and leave any political or controversial issues behind. They come together as a caring, supportive group of nurses who all want to provide the best care to their patients.” 

ONS and MECC have been working together for more than 10 years with nurses and oncology professionals from the Middle East. The goal is to provide quality cancer care by offering new perspectives and sharing knowledge. Newton says she hopes that the advanced palliative care information will allow healthcare professionals to implement palliative care programs in their regions or countries.

Although no date has been set yet, ONS and MECC are interested in conducting a leadership course in the area to provide leadership tools to ensure change. “We hope that palliative care can become a reality in the Middle East,” Newton said.